UCAL Logo Individuals attempting to suppress their alcohol addiction can now be benefited, thanks to the following discovery. A latest UCLA study has introduced an intervention program for assisting the elderly population to reduce alcohol consumption. The multi-component intervention appears helpful even when provided along with medications, psychiatric or medical conditions and other co-morbidities common to older people.

The study included 631 adults aged 55 and older enrolled between October 2004 and April 2007 from three primary care sites in Southern California. For a year, volunteers were identified as being at-risk by the Comorbidity Alcohol Risk Evaluation Tool. This tool comprises data on alcohol use, medications that can interact negatively with alcohol like ulcers, pain and sleeping, as well as medical and psychiatric conditions or symptoms of hypertension, depression, abdominal pain and memory problems. Volunteers were randomly assigned to either receive a booklet on general healthy behaviors for older adults or the intervention.

While the booklet included recommended drinking limits, the intervention had a personalized report of their alcohol-related risks, a drinking diary to help them keep track of their consumption, a booklet on aging and drinking, advice from a primary health care provider along with telephone counseling from a health educator. Subjects were provided with counseling session at two, four and eight weeks after the start of the study. Participants belonging to both the groups were made to consume around 15 alcoholic drinks each week at the beginning of the study.

Lead investigator Dr. Alison Moore, a professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, added, “We have an aging population and more than half drink alcohol. Older adults have additional risks compared with younger adults because of age-related physiological changes that increase the effect of a given dose of alcohol and because of the increase in medical and psychiatric conditions and the use of medications that may interact negatively with alcohol. We wanted to test an intervention to reduce alcohol-related risks in primary care, where most older adults receive care.”

From those considered at-risk drinkers, 73 percent were on medications, 60 percent reported symptoms, 50 percent had medical or psychiatric conditions and 47 percent consumed alcohol in excess quantities. After three months, those in the intervention group apparently had lowered their alcohol consumption to an average of nine drinks a week. Volunteers in the control arm possibly decreased their alcohol consumption to 11 drinks per week. This number appeared constant for a period of one year.

Authors observed that on completion of three months, 40 percent of the intervention group and 61 percent of the control group were still at-risk drinkers. One year later, 54 percent of the intervention arm and 60 percent of the control group were registered as at-risk drinkers. It is predicted that the intervention program introduced in the current study aids in lowering alcohol consumption.

The study is published in the January issue of the journal Addiction.